DER – Student's Forum St. Petersburg

Report of the Conference on a "Vision of a Wider Europe"

The International Student's Forum held a meeting on the topic "Vision of a Wider Europe" in St. Petersburg from 14 - 16 October, which mainly dealt with the relations between the Russian Federation and the World Trade Organization that the Russian Federation joined as a full member a year ago, as well as a potential accession of the Russian Federation to the OECD. The Forum discussed the intricacies of the negotiation process prior to Russia's accession to the WTO, various aspects of its cooperation with the European Union, the economic effects of membership in the organization and the future impact that the world economy might have on Russia. Тhe topic of the conference is of particular relevance to Russia as well as other countries. This was demonstrated by the fact that not only the organizers of the conference were international - the Higher School of Economics (St. Petersburg), the Yeltsin Foundation and the International Non-Governmental Organization "Dialog-Europe-Russia" - but also the participants who came from all over the world. Students from Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Finland and three Russian cities, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Ekaterinburg took part in the conference. The capital of the Ural District was represented by students of the Department of International Relations of the Ural State University.

The conference was very interesting and produced many results, largely owing to its careful preparation. All participants had prepared presentations and after each presentation time was allocated for questions and discussion. The presentations described the economic, political and social aspects of Russia's WTO integration. Topics for discussion were the free market, the global financial system, development and innovation, the tariff system, migration and visa regimes, agriculture, the fight against corruption and monopolies, energy security for Europe, the role of the mass media in international politics and many more. The students of the Ural State University presented several presentations on the topic of economic development of the Ural region as a consequence of international cooperation. Due to the time constraints of the conference schedule it was unfortunately at times not possible to go into a detailed discussion of the presentations' topic. European Union citizens were able to provide valuable insight into these problems. The participation of and presentations given by high-ranking experts, renowned politicians and diplomats, such as the former Federal Chancellor of Austria, Wolfgang Schüssel, the Coordinator for Russia's accession to the OECD, Robert Lee, the Deputy Director of the Yeltsin Foundation, Yevgeny Volk, the Director of the Higher School of Economics of St. Petersburg, Sergey Kadochnikov, the Director of the Department for Trade Negotiations of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, Maksim Medvedkov, the former ambassador of the Republic of Austria to the Russian Federation, Martin Vukovich were a great success. The conference participants had the opportunity to ask them any questions that they were interested in. As a result of the comprehensive discussion the participants were able to get a general notion of Russia's WTO integration process, the complicated and thorny path to membership in that organization, as well as the specifics of accession and future developments.

It should be pointed out that the conference was organized very well. Apart form the main program the cultural program of the conference played an important role. All participants were invited to visit the Russian Museum. A reception was organized for the participants at the General Consulate of Lithuania in St. Petersburg, where a presentation on the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union was shown. After the official part of the events the participants of the Forum were able to continue their conversations in an informal setting. Although the official conference language was English, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that more than half of the foreign students had a good command of Russian. Due to the pleasant weather conditions our European colleagues were able to get acquainted with the city.

The Forum "Vision of a Wider Europe" clearly demonstrated that it is necessary to intensify the mutually beneficial ties between Russia and Europe in the field of politics, economics and culture. One example of this cooperation is the Student Conference that was held with the participation of high-ranking European and Russian experts. The conference provided a possibility for lively exchange, learning and mutually enriching experiences to the participants that came from various cultures and nations, thus highlighting the European-Russian relations from various angles. It is profoundly symbolic that the Forum took place in St. Petersburg, a city where European and Russian culture met and blended. This conference has shown the continued interest of E.U. countries in Russia as an integral part of a common cultural and economic space.